Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Fraudulent calls increase in central New York

NEW HARTFORD — There has been a recent rise in fraudulent phone calls, e-mail phishing attempts, and even fraudulent text messages made to customers and non-customers of financial institutions throughout Central New York, according to the GPO Federal Credit Union.

Gary Roback, vice president of member services, said some of the credit union’s members have been receiving calls and have given out personal information.
This has resulted in GPO’s enacting proactive measures of blocking access to these affected accounts and re-issuing new debit and credit cards.

“The public needs to be aware...,” said Roback in a phone interview. “The threat is there.”

However, just being conscious of the existing techniques does not necessarily ensure safety.

He warned that once the information is obtained, “literally it could be seconds...less than a minute,” before the victim’s account is cleaned out. “Even if you think there’s been some sort of information theft...the sooner you notify your financial institution the better,” he continued

Attempts to contact representatives with NBT Bank and Adirondack Bank, both with local branches, were not returned. 

Both banks issued new debit cards to customers in response to a data intrusion that affected Hannaford Supermarkets in March.

The attack on Hannaford stores revealed 4.2 million card numbers between Dec. 7 and March 10, with about 1,800 cards used fraudulently, reported the AP.

Two Oswego County workers suspended

OSWEGO — Oswego County Highway Department employees are once again the subject of a misconduct investigation after former legislator Jim McMahon, of 422 county Route 33 in Hastings, witnessed county employees cutting trees on his neighbor’s private property.

The two Oswego County Highway employees who were involved in the incident were suspended without pay last week while county officials continue to investigate the incident.

“I have no idea what they were doing … they were in about 250 feet off the road on my neighbor’s property,” McMahon said. “It startled me. I asked myself, ‘what are they doing?’ so I started taking pictures.”

He submitted the pictures to Doug Malone, D-Oswego Town, who forwarded them to County Attorney Rich Mitchell and County Administrator Philip Church. When contacted with questions concerning the incident, officials have been tight-lipped because the investigation is still ongoing.

Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann, R-Amboy, confirmed that two employees have been suspended without pay and were using county equipment during the incident being investigated. Church was unable to comment on the identity of the county employees or the incident.

In 2007, the department was under scrutiny when a highway department employee was seen unloading firewood at a co-worker’s residence while using county equipment on county time. The incident served as a catalyst to revise the county’s theft policy, however, more than a year after the Infrastructure and Facilities Committee approved a policy change, it never made it to the full legislature for a vote, said Leg. Clerk Ted Jerrett.

The policy, which was enacted March 1, 2000, by former highway Superintendent Don Morey, states that county employees can not use county-owned resources for personal gain.

Police: Drug-making chemicals force evacuations in Yorkville

YORKVILLE — Several Yorkville residents were evacuated from their homes Tuesday night after police discovered hazardous materials used to manufacture drugs inside a Champlin Avenue residence, according to state police.

The house at 1004 Champlin Ave. has since been deemed safe by the state police Community Emergency Response Team, and all residents returned to their homes this morning, state police Troop D public information officer Trooper Jim Simpson said.

Oneida County probation officers were serving a warrant on Michael Schecter around 5:30 p.m. at the location Tuesday night when they observed several containers of an unknown chemical, later determined to be ether, Simpson said.

Schecter was wanted on a parole violation, troopers said.

Ether is a volatile chemical that can cause eye and lung irritation, dizziness, skin burns, loss of consciousness and potentially death, depending on the level of exposure.

In this case, it is believed the chemical was being used to manufacture psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD, Simpson said. Ether is used to extract the hallucinogen from the mushroom in a concentrated form and free of contaminants.

The block on Champlain between Arnold and Highland avenues was evacuated. About 10 families from that area were asked to leave, Simpson said. Police cleared the area of the chemicals and the residence was deemed safe at 4 a.m. Residents were allowed to return at that time, Simpson said.

Schecter has been charged with violation of probation.

Additional charges may be pending based on laboratory tests, Simpson said.